Trump won in 2016 running on a strong “America First” platform. A major component of America First-ism is prioritizing the interests and the well-being of American citizens first—before the interests and well-being of foreign-born workers and immigrants, legal or otherwise. The appeal and the concept aren’t difficult to understand: a government should, chiefly, operate in the interest of its citizens before anyone else. We can discuss the best immigration policies as a nation, but those policies should always place American citizens at the forefront.
It’s such a simple and pure political philosophy, it’s a wonder it comes under such fire. But such is the world of globalists—who want cheap labor and sacrificial offerings to Efficiency—and progressives—who think anyone who is white and cares about having a job is a racist. Take out the mercenaries (the former group) and the insane (the latter group) and you have reasonable people, those folks that might quibble around the edges of America First doctrine, but can’t disagree with its fundamental premises.
Trump has been better than most of his predecessors on immigration, though his waffling and equivocating—likely the product of Jared Kushner’s influence—have soured his some of his earliest supporters. His turn on Jeff Sessions and the former Attorney General’s ultimate defeat in the Alabama Republican primary this summer seemed to many Trumpists to be a betrayal of immigration patriotism. Sessions was, indeed, the leading voice in the United States government, pre-Trump, in denouncing open borders and unlimited immigration. With Sessions leaving the national scene, immigration patriots and restrictionists have reason to worry.
That said, it bears remembering that Trump won the presidency campaigning on building a wall, prioritizing Americans over foreign workers, and keeping American industries at home. No one in meaningful national politics (other than Jeff Sessions and Pat Buchanan) was beating that drum prior to Trump. Trump tapped into a deep well of resentment over the Obama administration’s decade of putting middle-class Americans last, and several decades of neglect and open scorn from national politicians.
I also don’t expect Trump to reverse the postwar consensus overnight, or to get the whole loaf all at once. I think Trump’s basic instincts are to put Americans first, while weighing the complexities of various interest groups and economic factors.
But Trump is at his best when he cuts the Gordian Knot and drives to the heart of the issues. If Americans are losing jobs to foreign visa holders, well, make those visas less valuable. He’s done that with an executive order barring H1B visa holders from working in federal government jobs, and barring the government from using contractors who use H1B visa holders.
Everyone who follows immigration issues knows the H1B visa program is a scam that allows companies to import cheap programmers and workers. Americans often are forced to train their foreign replacements if they want to receive pensions or severance packages. It’s suppressed wages in the tech industry, which is routinely lauded as the ticket to a middle-class life, with cheap Indian programmers (so much so that now companies are dealing with employee conflicts based in the caste system!).
Curbing H1B visas was Trump’s first punch. His second this week was firing the Chair of the TVA, who was replacing American workers with foreign ones under the H1B visa scam. The Tennessee Valley Authority was founded as a New Deal program to bring hydroelectricity to the Tennessee Valley, and it put thousands of desperate poor Appalachians to work—and brought electricity to their homes and farms. The very notion that a federal authority would be staffed with foreign workers—not even naturalized citizens!—is absurd and lurid.
Trump’s also denounced the TVA chair’s $8,000,000 salary, saying the next chair will only be paid $500,000. Critics are denouncing that move on the grounds that the CEO of any other major energy company would make more than $8 million a year. But the TVA is a government project, even if it functions independently. The Chair should not be collecting a massive paycheck (and, seriously, a cool half-a-mill a year would definitely see me working around the clock to run the TVA well).
These are the moves that will help Trump get re-elected this November. He needs to keep hammering home that America First message. Show middle- and working-class Americans you care about their problems and their interests, as you did in 2016, and you will still be POTUS, Mr. President.